The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
Linear Rail Line Construction to Be Accelerated

The next-generation high-speed railway, the Chuo Linear (Maglev) Shinkansen, is slated to begin operation between Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027. And in a press conference held in early June 2016, MLIT minister Keiichi Ishii clarified that new guidelines will call for moving up the completion date for extension of the line to Osaka, initially planned for 2045.

The thinking is that, by harnessing the Fiscal Investment and Loan Program (FILP) to fund construction, financial risks to the JR Tokai Railway Co. will be reduced while expediting the creation of a high-speed transportation network.

The initial plan had called for JR Tokai to fund the project using its own capital. Once the Tokyo–Nagoya section was up and running, the company could use a period of about eight years to recoup its outlays before extending the line to its terminal in Osaka.

As a means of supplying capital, FILP, which has been used to cover shortfalls in the private sector, will be involved. This would enable JR Tokai to procure long-term, low-interest financing at a fixed rate. The amount of financing would be in the vicinity of ¥3 trillion.

In the background of the extension is the government’s anticipation of promoting linear railway technology as a growth strategy. The government has set a GDP target of ¥600 trillion by 2020, but the economy continues to drag its feet. The government and Liberal-Democratic Party, which seeks to stimulate the economy through public funding, views the project as a means of achieving this while also realizing fiscal health.

While expediting the extension of the linear railway can be expected to have a favorable economic impact, the possible downside is that funding by FILP runs the risk of higher interest rates. Another criticism is that such support for selected projects may discourage financing from the private sector. The government is likely to combine efforts with a special committee organized by the LDP to carefully deliberate the proposal.

Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
AI Controls to Alleviate Risk of Rebellion

Robots may someday demand the right to vote, or engage in devious types of criminal mischief such as phone cash scams. These were among the controversial points in a report on the risks posed to society and the economy by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The report was released on June 20 by a research organization operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

In addition to common problems such as hacking, the point was also made that the use of AI to provide robots with volition may bring about a change in their relationship with humans. To avoid such risks, the ministry raised the necessity of conducting “AI development so as to proactively prevent robots from turning against humans.”

The 20 points raised in the report address specific risks, for example cutting off a network to cause robots to perform unanticipated actions, as well as ethical concerns such as whether a robot created to replicate a deceased human based on DNA or other genetic materials would create problems related to respect for human life. The paper even went so far as to request the possibility of assigning rights to “wild robots” that have been discarded by their masters.

Also raised were concerns over the possibility of androids being programmed to engage in the phone cash scams that have plagued Japan in recent years, as well as the need for international sharing of data on uses of robots for criminal purposes.

Based on the report, it would appear that the main objective of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry is to gain hegemony in AI policymaking over the other two main ministries—the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology—with which it is competing for budget.

Keizaikai magazine
The point was also made that the use of AI to provide robots with volition may bring about a change in their relationship with humans.